A Week in Writing #5 – Two weeks in writing

I skipped last week’s ‘A Week in Writing’ post (not completely intentionally – I just kept putting it off), so this week’s post is going to be for the last two weeks. And why not? It’s my series, after all.

The last two weeks have been very productive, despite only being able to spend a relatively small amount of time on writing and writing-related projects.

The week before last, I did a good chunk of writing, and I managed to finish the fourth story for OTSOT 3 (which is going in fifth position in the book). This is great – after months of going very slowly with this book (for many reasons, which included getting distracted by other stories), I seem to have sped up again. It feels like I’m getting very close to finishing now.

I did also start on the fifth story for OTSOT 3 (which is going in fourth position in the book) the week before last, and I continued it last week. OTSOT 3 has now passed 20,000 words, and I think this book is going to end up being slightly longer than the other two. I suspect this fifth story is going to be quite long. If I remember correctly, OTSOT 1 is around 22,000, and OTSOT 2 is around 20,000. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one ends up around 23,000-24,000.

The ‘feel’ of this book is, I think, slightly different to the other two. (Similarly, I think the ‘feel’ of OTSOT 2 was slightly different to OTSOT 1.) I quite like this. To me, this suggests that each book is not just treading the ground of the previous books – they are each introducing something slightly different. I think this is good – I think this expands the world of the stories.

Also over the last two weeks, I’ve had tremendous success with part of the audiobook for OTSOT 1. The week before last, I went through the audio story for Fluncg the Indignant, and cut out all the bad takes. Listening back to what I had recorded, I still liked it – a good sign. Then last week (well, over the weekend just gone), I went through the track and arranged all of the clips – making sure that the timings between them were correct. I also applied all of the audio effects (normalisation, equalisation, et cetera).

I also added the music that goes at the start and end of the story. I was then able to listen back to the story in its complete form for the first time. I REALLY liked it. I thought it had turned out very well – not perfectly, of course – they never do – but really well. The voice, while not absolutely perfect for Fluncg, is funny and annoying – great for a short story like this – it’s entertaining, while also making its point.

And in fact I think this audio story might just be the best one I’ve made so far. It’s difficult to really say, but it might be. (That’s partly helped along by the text of the story itself – Fluncg the Indignant is shorter, with fewer details, than something like Throch the Cunning.) Spending all this time agonising over the audio has paid off, it seems.

The audio story has been exported, made into a video, and uploaded to my main YouTube channel. It’s going live on Wednesday evening at 10:00.

The audio story for Hluthg the First should be a lot easier – I’ve always known what Hluthg’s voice sounds like. I’ve already recorded the whole thing – I’ve just got to finish editing it (which doesn’t take that long, if I make myself do it – I just hate editing audio). With any luck I can get that out in a few weeks’ time (though I’ve said that before).

A Week in Writing #4 – Success with the trolls

It’s been both a productive and unproductive week for writing.

I had my second vaccine dose this weekend. When I had the first dose, for the following two days I was extremely tired – particularly on the day immediately after it. This time it was the same – I had the jab on Saturday, and on Sunday I was completely knocked out – I could hardly move – I was completely shattered. I don’t think I was awake for more than two or three consecutive hours the whole day. And then Monday was mostly the same – until very late in the evening, when I started to get more energy again.

So effectively the whole weekend – that huge block of valuable time when I had been planning on focusing entirely on writing and related things – was just gone.

Despite that, there have been other small islands of time when I’ve been able to do things. Early last week I re-recorded the entirety of Fluncg the Indignant for the audiobook. It was very quick to do. (I’ve done it so many times now.) I did change the voice of Fluncg ever so slightly again, but it really wasn’t much – I just changed the way the gravelliness comes through in it a bit. The result is that it emphasises Fluncg’s arrogance and over-drama a bit more, which is fun.

I began editing that audio, but I haven’t finished – there’s still quite a bit to do. But … if you get into it, you can get through a lot of the editing fairly quickly – maybe I’ll be able to finish it this weekend.

The voice of Fluncg is enormous fun to do. (The voices of all the trolls are. I think my favourite of the ones published so far is probably that of Gogog. But the one I’m really looking forward to doing is that of the head of The Company, from More On The Subject Of Trolls. I’ve known that voice for years, and it is endless fun. It’s a completely full-body voice.)

I have also done more planning of Project 201811 this week – that’s been extremely useful. There’s lots of funny stuff going into that. If I ever write and finish the whole thing, that will probably be my funniest story.

And I have also written more of OTSOT 3 – about 1500 words – which doesn’t sound like a lot, but the OTSOT stories, being short stories, tend to cut out a lot of the … not ‘filler’ but sort of ‘adjacent’ material that you often find in novels. The stories in OTSOT often really try to avoid anything that isn’t directly relevant to the moral of the story. And so a lot can happen in 1500 words.

Also, with a much clearer outline for this story, writing it has become a lot easier – the value of planning is revealed yet again. It should be quite easy to finish it now, leaving one story left in OTSOT 3 to finish.

I have a great many three-day weekends lined up over the next few months. This is something I’ve done for many years in order to maximise my productivity on things I’m doing – arrange to have as many three-day weekends as possible. It’s amazing what one extra day can do.

A Week in Writing #3

Well the time has just evaporated this week. It seems like I’ve had hardly any chance at all to do some writing since the last of these posts.

I haven’t done a lot of writing of actual story words this week – i.e., words that might actually be part of the final book. In fact I don’t think I’ve done any. But I have done something else that’s very important – I have done planning for at least two stories.

I’ve mentioned recently how nowadays there are times when I can write out a story exactly how I want it first time. There are advantages and disadvantages to this, and one of the disadvantages is that you can sort of get used to it. If you have a few stories like this in a row, you start to expect it for subsequent ones – and that’s a problem, because it simply won’t happen for all stories.

But on top of this, sometimes not only has a story turned out well straight away, but the idea for a story had been fully formed in my head as I sat down to start writing it. This has gotten me into the bad habit of not necessarily planning stories before writing them. This is despite me being a strong advocate for planning stories. (It’s also worth pointing out that being able to write a full story without planning it is made a lot easier when it’s a short story (particularly one of my short stories, which tend to be about 3000-5000 words long).)

Writing the final two stories for OTSOT 3 has been trickier than I anticipated, so in order to make it easier, and in order to get out of this bad habit, I have made a deliberate effort to plan these final two (even though they are pretty simple stories). One of them I think I did over a week ago, the other one – the longer one – I did this week. And the value of planning is once again revealed – I was able to identify several important things that should happen early in the stories by planning them.

Also this week, I tried to do more on the audio story for Fluncg the Indignant. I did a lot of editing of the audio that I had, trying to produce the final cut. However, I found that the audio I had for the different lines in various places didn’t really ‘gel’. Some of the narrator’s lines didn’t really gel with the characters’ lines, and it occurred to me that the simplest thing to do would just be to re-record the whole thing. (It sounds like a drastic action, but I’ve gotten a lot better and faster at recording audio stories, and at least this one’s not as long as Throch the Cunning – this one’s actually quite short.)

In entirely non-writing news, over the last week I have made fantastic progress in drawing out my family tree. This is a project that I’ve been interested in and working on slowly for (I think) about two years. I had access to a lot of data for my family tree – both my parents had partial trees drawn out already, so I just had to copy the data in those. What I wanted to do was combine all of the data, and have a computer program draw out the tree.

I had previously started creating a program to read all of the data from a file, and then draw out the tree, in Python. However, Python’s built-in image-drawing abilities are very lacking, and I realised that in order to draw the tree nicely, I needed to switch to a language with better image-drawing abilities. So I swapped to using C# – a language I used to use a lot years ago, but which I haven’t used very much since. Doing this has allowed me to produce a much better-drawn tree. I also finished typing in all of the data from the existing trees. So I now have a very large image that shows the tree, and it looks quite nice.

I’ve been rather obsessed with this project over the last few days, so over the next week, when I’m not writing, I will likely be doing this. The next things to do are to improve the visual design of the tree even more, and to do more original research to find more ancestors to put on the tree.

A Week in Writing #2

It’s been a slow week. Many things have interrupted my writing.

I did write some more in Project 201811 – only a few hundred words, but they were good words. What I wrote almost certainly won’t change much between now and the final draft.

This is something that I find often now. I can often write something just the way I want it the first time. Many of the stories in OTSOT 2 and some in OTSOT 1 were like that, as well as many of the off-series short stories. This is different to Zolantis, and all of the stuff that I was writing before that, where the text changed drastically between the first and last drafts.

On the one hand, I quite like that this happens now – that I can get things right the first time. It saves a lot of time. Editing single lines to make the language better is a pretty quick thing to do, but changing the structure of a story once it’s been written, or adjusting the emphasis of a plot point or character trait, can add a huge amount of time to editing, because there are just so many things that need to be changed if you do that.

On the other hand, sometimes I try to aim to get something right the first time, and this is not ideal. When something just happens to turn out right the first time, great, but when you aim for it, you can end up spending a lot of time trying to anticipate every problem you’re going to encounter trying to write the story, and this is not so great.

Despite not writing very many words in the last week, I did do something else that was very important.

I have been trying to do the audiobook for On The Subject Of Trolls for two years. I thought it would take a matter of weeks, but it has taken years. That’s in large part because I keep getting distracted from the project – it’s more fun to write new stories than to record old ones. But it’s also partly because making an audiobook is not as easy as it seems.

Getting the right audio setup to begin with is quite difficult. Microphones can differ quite drastically in the quality of the sound that they produce – it’s only recently that I bought a new microphone that produces a really nice sound. The room that you’re in has a big effect on the sound. I do have a small, walk-in wardrobe that blocks all of the sound from outside, and which has almost no echo to it, and I did try using that when I first started trying to make the audiobook for OTSOT. However, you need to be able to sit down when recording an audiobook – it takes hours and hours to record, even for a short book like OTSOT – you can’t stand the entire time – and that room was too small to sit down in. So now I record audio at my desk (that you see in the videos). That’s in quite a large, echoey room, but with a certain arrangement of foam shields, the echo is mostly blocked.

There are many other technical hurdles to recording an audiobook, but on top of all of these, I had a creative hurdle too. I knew what the voices of Throch, Gogog, Hluthg, and Plolg sounded like long before I published OTSOT. (In fact, I knew what Throch’s voice sounded like the moment I started writing the first sentence of the book.) But with Fluncg, the voice that I used in my head when writing the story is not a ‘performable’ one – it’s entirely abstract – a voice that cannot exist in the real, physical world. So I needed to choose a real one.

I have been trying to come up with a real voice for Fluncg for two years, and none of them have been right. But this week, finally, I think I might have done it. I had an idea for a new voice, and I spent a while analysing it, to see if it really contained the essence of Fluncg. (That sounds like a rather disgusting perfume.) Fluncg has a very specific personality: Fluncg is easily offended, Fluncg is overly dramatic and self-centred, and Fluncg is infinitely spiteful. The voice must match that, but it must also be a fun voice – these stories are intended to be fun. I think this latest voice finally gets the balance between all of those things.

I recorded Fluncg’s lines with this new voice in just a few minutes. All I need to do now is edit the audio. I hate editing video and audio, so I always put it off, even though it never takes as long as I think it’s going to. But I’m going to try to drive towards finishing this audio story over the next week or two – it has languished for far too long.

A Week in Writing #1

The start.

This post is the first in a new series on this blog. Starting a new series is a dangerous thing for me. When it comes to blog posts and videos, I tend to start series’ and then not finish them. Hopefully this one will be different, and I think the format will help with that.

The idea for this series is just that, every week, I will write about what writing and writing-related things I’ve gotten up to in the last week. It will be quite similar to a journal. (I do in fact write a journal too – I write in that every day, and have done for (almost) eight years – I was doing it before it was cool.)

The reason for doing this series is partly so that I have more stuff on this blog. I don’t do very much with this blog – I want to do more with it. But it’s also because, every week, there are lots of things that I’m thinking about with regards to writing, and making videos, and all of the other stuff, that no-one ever knows about, and I think this can make it seem like what I’m doing is quite erratic and disconnected. These blog posts should hopefully connect together the various things I do.

They’ll also end up giving a look behind the scenes of the stuff I do. In the past I’ve tended to mention this sort of thing at the start of videos on my YouTube channel. However, I realised that it tends to stop the video dead if I start out with a long and rambly explanation of how the video came to be and why I wanted to make it, so I don’t do that now. I think that kind of information is better on here.

So that’s the introduction to the series. Will I make it to week two? Who knows.

Now to the actual point of the blog post: what have I been doing over the last week?

The last week has been a mixture of zero productivity and maximum productivity. During the week last week, I didn’t do any writing. Over the weekend, however – specifically, on Saturday – I did loads. I wrote over 2500 words in one story idea.

It wasn’t in OTSOT 3, however – it was in a different project. It was actually a project that I had the idea for more than three years ago. I couldn’t believe the date on Draft 1 when I came back to the project this weekend. I was sure I’d had this idea maybe only one year ago. This idea’s been swimming around in my head for three years.

I have tonnes of new story ideas at the moment. Everything about my stories stays completely secret until they are published, of course, so I can’t tell you anything at all about this one, or any of the others – I can’t even tell you the possible title or the genre. But I’ve got so many story ideas now that I’ve done something on, and may continue with, that I’ve realised that I need some codenames so that I can refer to them. The codename for this project is simply going to be Project 201811 – a name from which absolutely nothing about the story can be determined.

But as I say, Project 201811 is one that I had the idea for more than three years ago, and started writing almost three years ago. All I’d written so far was the opening to the first chapter. On Saturday, I wrote the remainder of chapter one, and started on chapter two.

This story’s just been sitting in my head for three years, and in that time, I’ve thought about it a lot – developed a very clear idea of what happens in that first chapter. So when I started adding more to it on Saturday, the words just flowed onto the page. I’m very pleased with how it’s turning out so far.

While I can’t tell you the exact genre of Project 201811, I can tell you that it is slightly comedic in tone. I seem to have ended up doing a lot of slightly funny stories in recent years – OTSOT has a slightly funny edge to it, as do many of the off-series short stories. I didn’t intend to do this at all – it’s just by accident that a lot of what I’m writing at the moment is more humorous. At some point in the near future I will pivot to more serious stories again.

As for writing-related things that have happened this week, I have continued trying to do more on the audiobook for OTSOT 1. This project has hung around for ages, and I could rant for ages about it. The first two stories for OTSOT 1 have been recorded and edited – they’re on my YouTube channel – and the fifth story has been recorded and edited too, but it’s not online yet – I’m putting them online in order. I’d previously recorded about half of the fourth story too, and that had gone well. But the third story – Fluncg the Indignant – has been a massive problem.

I have not been able to get the voice for Fluncg right. I have tried many, many times to get it right – done loads of recordings of Fluncg’s lines. But whenever I get something that I at first like, when I listen back to it a few days later, I don’t like it. It’s never quite right.

I’ve been trying to get this story right in audio form for months, and it just isn’t working. It’s this story that’s been holding up the audiobook for OTSOT 1, and consequently the audiobook for OTSOT 2. I think I’d’ve finished both of them a while ago if it weren’t for this story. (The story of Fluncg was always a difficult one to get right – even in its written form, it took longer than the others to get right.) I’m tempted to just say that it’s good enough with the last voice I’ve used. At some point you just have to stop spending time on something.

So on Sunday, instead of trying to do more on Fluncg the Indignant, I just recorded more of Hluthg the First. That went astonishingly well – I just have to edit that one now, and it’ll be done.

So that’s been the last week in writing: productive, but nowhere near as productive as I have sometimes been.